Western philosophy and culture in general have, as it were, always been more concerned with appearance than with disappearance: Aesthetic, epistemic, religious, or technical practices are supposed to make something appear and, thus, intelligible, perceptible, or imaginable. This bias parallels the ontological preference given to coming into being and becoming present by neglecting the processes of disintegration, dissolution and destabilization of formations and relations. This notwithstanding, disappearing has always kept a somewhat less apparent, but highly important key place in Western thought. Religious and political institutions for instance, as well as logics have always worked on making anything that formed a contradiction disappear - not to mention the practice of totalitarian regimes of making people disappear. Neverthe­less, references to dis­appearance within the humanities are traditionally accompanied by the restorative rhetoric of loss and endangerment. Especially, the conditions of highly technological media societies were too easily held responsible for dramatic disap­pearances (of body, reality, distance, etc.), virtualization and dematerialization.

The conference will examine disappearing and its relation­ship to appearing by drawing on the concept of «operative ontologies». Leaving behind a concept of being as a primordial and reliable ontological realm, «operative ontologies» seek to document and unfold different «modes of existence», «ontological regimes», or «dispositions of being» (Haudricourt, Viveiros de Castro, Descola, Latour following Souriau). In dialogue with plural and regional ontologies, the concept focuses on the media technological constitution of the relation of humans and things: Neither subjects nor objects are understood as essential entities given in advance and as a basis of relations, but rather as metastable results of generative operations which produce realities, distinctions, collectives and realms of being in the first place (and which we wish to address as «media»).

Drawing on «operative ontologies», the conference aims to explore two concrete operations: appearing and disappear­ing, with particular regard to the second. In line with the pluralization of beings, it is necessary to investigate differ­ent modes of going out of existence and out of sight and, thus, the ontological and aesthetic dimensions of disappearing. Obviously, disappearing can be a matter of passing, of destruction as well as of becoming invisible or infinitesimally small, of hiding, banishment, or of displacement. It is thus virtually impossible to think of both operations as independent from each other. Both are characterized by a liminality, raising questions of tempora­l­ity as well as spatiality: Where does something disappear to and where does it ap­pear from? Does dis/appearance unfold gradually, suddenly or tiltingly?